Self Compassion

By: Erin Sweeney, MA, LMSW

“Belong to yourself.” --Sabrina Ward-Harrison

I’ve been noticing a theme lately:  it is much easier for us to show compassion to others than for ourselves.  Of course, self compassion does aid us in being truly compassionate to others.  

It seems we can make space for others.  We can absorb the emotions of others.  We can excuse others.  We can forgive others.  We can extend grace for others.  We can believe the best in others.  We can give permission for failure to others.  We can hope for the best for others.  We can advocate for others.

Why is it so much harder to do these things for ourselves?

We think things that can really hold us back: “I can’t advocate for myself, or the person I am speaking to will think badly of me or react poorly to me.  It’s fine, I’ll handle it”  or “Why can’t I get over this?  Why does this keep coming up?”  or “Why can’t I get it together?  Look at her/him.  They have it together.”  or  “I’ll never forgive myself for this.” or “I must be perfect in order to be happy.”

I find we often hold ourselves to a much more rigid way of living.  We live into an all or nothing mentality.  “I started today by eating an unhealthy breakfast, so the rest of the day is shot.  I might as well binge the rest of the day.”  It can feel like a tightrope:  “I’ve got to get my body right, my wardrobe right, my marriage right, my parenting on point, my house in order, my career in line, my savings tight…”  One slip, and we beat ourselves up.  We often abandon our goals, feeling badly about doing so.  We compare ourselves to others we see on social media, and the cycle of self criticism and uncaring continues.

Much like a child to a parent, though, we belong to ourselves.  I wonder what it would look like to resist comparing ourselves to others.    To recognize our own needs. To view our needs just as worthy as others. To use our voices to advocate for ourselves.  To approach ourselves with curiosity and wonder instead of criticism.  To forgive ourselves.  To believe the best about ourselves.  To recognize that we are more than good enough...much like a good parent would to a child.

I wonder if you would fast from your critical voice.  When you hear him/her coming at you with some of these thoughts, if you could turn away.  Could you notice what you are experiencing with curiosity?  Would you be willing to forgive yourself when you do not adhere so strictly to your goals and simply allow yourself to try again?  Could you belong to yourself?   We would love to continue to explore these questions with you and how they could change everything.